The World Health Organization (WHO) came under intense criticism Saturday for its decision to name Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe as the organization's newest goodwill ambassador. The position is mostly symbolic, but the 93-year-old Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980, is widely considered a dictator, and his government stands accused of gross human rights violations.
"The decision to appoint Robert Mugabe as a WHO goodwill ambassador is deeply disappointing and wrong," said Dr. Jeremy Farrar of Wellcome Trust, a prominent British health charity. "Robert Mugabe fails in every way to represent the values WHO should stand for."
WHO's Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Mugabe was chosen because his government "places universal health coverage and health promotion at the center of its policies to provide health care to all," but outside observers say the Zimbabwean health-care system is in "a shambolic state" with hospitals lacking "the most basic necessities."
Update Oct. 22: WHO rescinded Mugabe's selection as a goodwill ambassador.